Turkey was once the home of the Ottoman Empire that stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature. With the fall of the empire by the 20th century, Turkey’s political power waned, though it continued to be a force regionally. The country also became known for one of the modern era’s most horrific genocides, as more than one million Armenians died during the period of World War I as a result of atrocities committed by Ottoman leaders.
During the current decade, relations between Turkey and the US have been strained. In contrast to the Gulf War, Turkey did not side with Washington’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The government in Ankara refused to allow US troops to deploy through its territory to Iraq, and later, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States after the House Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution that labeled the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as genocide. Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama publicly proclaimed he wanted to repair relations with Turkey, saying the country played an important role in forging peace in the region and inside Iraq.
Lay of the Land: Situated in both southern Europe and southwestern Asia, and bordering the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean seas, Turkey forms a geographic and historic bridge between East and West. Asian Turkey, which includes 97% of the country’s land area, is separated from European Turkey by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.
Turkey was originally occupied by the Indo-European Hittites and later by Phrygians and Lydians. The Persian Empire occupied the area in the 6th century BC, giving way to the Roman Empire, then later the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Turks first appeared in the early 13th century, and gradually spread through the Near East and Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 1453 and storming the gates of Vienna two centuries later. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to western Algeria. Lasting for 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was not only one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Mediterranean region, but it generated a great cultural outpouring of Islamic art, architecture, and literature.
US-Turkish friendship dates to the late 18th century and was officially sealed by a treaty in 1830. About 360,000 Turks came to the US between 1820 and 1950, but the vast majority of these returned when Ataturk established the secular republic in 1923.
by Tamar Gabelnick, William D. Hartung, and Jennifer Washburn with research assistance by Michelle Ciarrocca, A Joint Report of the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists
Notable Turkish Americans
(Atlantic Council of the United States)
In 2002, the two countries indicated their joint intent to upgrade bilateral economic relations by launching an Economic Partnership Commission, which last convened in Washington in April 2008. The US and Turkey also have a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to facilitate trade between the two countries. In 2008, Turkish exports to the US totaled about $4.6 billion, down from a high of $5.3 in 2006. American exports to Turkey totaled $10.4 billion in 2008, representing the highest total yet since 2004.
Nuclear Deal Proposed for Turkey
Turkey has generally respected human rights for its citizens, but some seriously problems the country is dealing with are torture and arbitrary abuse or deprivation of life, right to fair trial, civil rights, and women’s and children’s rights.
George W. Erving
Note: Not commissioned, although his nomination was confirmed by the Senate.
Namik Tan has served as Turkey’s ambassador to the United States since February 2010.
Francis J. “Frank” Ricciardone, Jr., a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who speaks Turkish, has returned to Turkey for his third tour of duty there. President Barack Obama nominated Ricciardone on July 1, 2010. However, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) blocked a Senate confirmation vote on him. Ricciardone served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Egypt from 2005 to 2008, and received public support from some Egyptian democracy activists. But back in the United States, Brownback and other conservatives claimed that Ricciardone was not aggressive enough in pursuing democracy in Egypt. When Ricciardone’s confirmation failed to come to a vote after more than five months, Obama gave him a recess appointment on December 29. His term will run out at the end of 2011.